This is a site for discussing roleplaying games. Have fun doing so, but there is one major rule: do not discuss political issues that aren't directly and uniquely related to the subject of the thread and about gaming. While this site is dedicated to free speech, the following will not be tolerated: devolving a thread into unrelated political discussion, sockpuppeting (using multiple and/or bogus accounts), disrupting topics without contributing to them, and posting images that could get someone fired in the workplace (an external link is OK, but clearly mark it as Not Safe For Work, or NSFW). If you receive a warning, please take it seriously and either move on to another topic or steer the discussion back to its original RPG-related theme.
The message boards have been upgraded. Please log in to your existing account by clicking here. It will ask twice, so that it can properly update your password and login information. If it has trouble recognizing your password, click the 'Forgot your password?' link to reset it with a new password sent to your email address on file.

Author Topic: "...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device  (Read 5727 times)

JesterRaiin

  • An Outsider
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1331
    • View Profile
I'm not sure why, but every time I make a new thread, 99% responds I get cover things I don't wanna discuss about. Since I'm sober since a few days already I feel like trying one more time. ;)

Anyway, I'll try to keep it as short and as straightforward as possible.

Plenty of settings feature a plot device in form of some Big Threat constantly endangering whole world, civilization, society, virginity of our women and such. It might be some impending doom, an ancient monster, now dormant but slowly waking up, a giant meteor destined to reduce whole civilization to ashes, hordes of others, be it drow, enemy kingdom, devil worshipers or other cultist, and so on, and so forth.

I don't want to discuss whether it's useful or not.

My questions are:

  • Do you know/play some settings void of such a threat?
  • Do your players/yourself enjoy them as much as ones with such a feature?
  • Did you develop some clever alternative to the Big Threat - a thing familiar to your world's inhabitants, that motivates some (PCs) to move their asses and travel across whole world and beyond? A word of explanation: The One Ring from tLoTR setting doesn't match the criteria, since it serves the purpose of getting rid of the Big Threat. The quest to seek Holy Grail would be the better example of what I have in mind. While it might be used as a morale boosting icon for any ruler or general, its purpose isn't to counter any specific Big Threat whatsoever.
Thanks!

Oh, and just for the sake of clarity, the idea for this thread comes from this comment by DoughDee.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2016, 05:23:55 AM by JesterRaiin »
"If it's not appearing, it's not a real message." ~ Brett

Shipyard Locked

  • -
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2605
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2016, 07:00:42 AM »
1. Except for my very earliest Fighting Fantasy campaigns (my entry to the hobby), which were dungeon and freedom based, I've always had some kind of large danger appear somewhere in the scheme of things, sooner or later.

2. I think I could run about a half-dozen sessions of exploration with no Big Threat for my current batches of players. After that a Big Threat starts to feel necessary to motivate them and give meaning to their acquisitions and discoveries. Nothing makes you appreciate the value of stuff like a danger to it.

3. I tried a 7th Sea campaign where the players were effectively the Brothers Grimm, roaming the countryside looking for fantastical stories to record for their book. That state of affairs lasted five sessions before they started making supernatural enemies that became the Big Threat. I can't recall if that was more my fault or theirs.

Exploderwizard

  • DESTROYER OF HOBBIES!
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • E
  • Posts: 4528
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2016, 07:12:41 AM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898465
I'm not sure why, but every time I make a new thread, 99% responds I get cover things I don't wanna discuss about. Since I'm sober since a few days already I feel like trying one more time. ;)

Because its the internet.


Quote from: JesterRaiin;898465
Anyway, I'll try to keep it as short and as straightforward as possible.

Plenty of settings feature a plot device in form of some Big Threat constantly endangering whole world, civilization, society, virginity of our women and such. It might be some impending doom, an ancient monster, now dormant but slowly waking up, a giant meteor destined to reduce whole civilization to ashes, hordes of others, be it drow, enemy kingdom, devil worshipers or other cultist, and so on, and so forth.

I don't want to discuss whether it's useful or not.

My questions are:

  • Do you know/play some settings void of such a threat?
  • Do your players/yourself enjoy them as much as ones with such a feature?
  • Did you develop some clever alternative to the Big Threat - a thing familiar to your world's inhabitants, that motivates some (PCs) to move their asses and travel across whole world and beyond? A word of explanation: The One Ring from tLoTR setting doesn't match the criteria, since it serves the purpose of getting rid of the Big Threat. The quest to seek Holy Grail would be the better example of what I have in mind. While it might be used as a morale boosting icon for any ruler or general, its purpose isn't to counter any specific Big Threat whatsoever.
Thanks!

Oh, and just for the sake of clarity, the idea for this thread comes from this comment by DoughDee.

A typical hexcrawl campaign in which the players explore territory and search for treasure doesn't feature any big bad threat in particular and I have run quite a few of those. The motivations as always are to gain fame and fortune, and of course more power.

So many campaigns revolve around saving the world again and again, its refreshing once in awhile to play a game where the world will basically continue to turn no matter what happens and the players are free to pursue personal goals for their characters. Saving the world/kingdom/dorktown over and over again gets stale.

I am running two campaigns currently. One of them is set in Greyhawk and does feature a big evil threat which needs to be eliminated. The other campaign is set in the old B/X Known World. There are several plots and schemes being hatched by various power players in that campaign but no single terrible evil or doom that must be stopped. In the Known World campaign the players have been dealing with Iron Ring operatives who are in the employ of the Thyatian empire. There are several political schemes going on for the players to get mixed up with but regardless of their involvement, the world just keeps going.
Quote from: JonWake
Gamers, as a whole, are much like primitive cavemen when confronted with a new game. Rather than 'oh, neat, what's this do?', the reaction is to decide if it's a sex hole, then hit it with a rock.

Quote from: Old Geezer;724252
At some point it seems like D&D is going to disappear up its own ass.

Quote from: Kyle Aaron;766997
In the randomness of the dice lies the seed for the great oak of creativity and fun. The great virtue of the dice is that they come without boxed text.

JesterRaiin

  • An Outsider
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1331
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2016, 09:58:05 AM »
Quote from: Shipyard Locked;898467
1. Except for my very earliest Fighting Fantasy campaigns (my entry to the hobby), which were dungeon and freedom based, I've always had some kind of large danger appear somewhere in the scheme of things, sooner or later.


Same here.

Quote

2. I think I could run about a half-dozen sessions of exploration with no Big Threat for my current batches of players. After that a Big Threat starts to feel necessary to motivate them and give meaning to their acquisitions and discoveries. Nothing makes you appreciate the value of stuff like a danger to it.


Pretty much same here. It usually takes a little more time, but at some point players begin to act a bit clueless (?) and they surely appreciate a tiny push in "right direction".

Quote

3. I tried a 7th Sea campaign where the players were effectively the Brothers Grimm, roaming the countryside looking for fantastical stories to record for their book. That state of affairs lasted five sessions before they started making supernatural enemies that became the Big Threat. I can't recall if that was more my fault or theirs.


Fault as in "you find it problematic"?


Quote from: Exploderwizard;898469
Because its the internet.


Ah yes, this one I didn't take into account. ;)

Quote
A typical hexcrawl campaign (...)


I realize that even in settings threatened by some menace it's absolutely possible (and common) to have whole campaigns dedicated to something else, but I was specifically interested in settings completely void of some uber-threat. I recall a few, but that's the problem - it's like pretty much every I remember features some global bad thing.

Quote
I am running two campaigns currently. One of them is set in Greyhawk and does feature a big evil threat which needs to be eliminated. The other campaign is set in the old B/X Known World. There are several plots and schemes being hatched by various power players in that campaign but no single terrible evil or doom that must be stopped. In the Known World campaign the players have been dealing with Iron Ring operatives who are in the employ of the Thyatian empire. There are several political schemes going on for the players to get mixed up with but regardless of their involvement, the world just keeps going.


Do you feel that your players miss the feature, or that they are "limited" in any way when there's no "ultimate threat" in their world? Do they complain, or simply share some opinion regarding that?
« Last Edit: May 18, 2016, 10:03:56 AM by JesterRaiin »
"If it's not appearing, it's not a real message." ~ Brett

Gronan of Simmerya

  • My member is senior
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8769
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2016, 10:11:54 AM »
In a fantasy game, the 'Big Threat' idea makes me puke so hard blood squirts out my ass.  Best way to make sure I don't play.

I want a world to explore and go where I wish.
You should go to GaryCon.  Period.

The rules can't cure stupid, and the rules can't cure asshole.

David Johansen

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • D
  • Posts: 5353
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2016, 10:24:51 AM »
If I use a big threat I usually let my players be the ones who release it.  They're good at that.
My new website is a mess http://www.uncouthsavage.com but actually should be working now!

Catelf

  • Therian Inquirer
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1155
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2016, 11:02:58 AM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898465
Plenty of settings feature a plot device in form of some Big Threat constantly endangering whole world, civilization, society, virginity of our women and such. It might be some impending doom, an ancient monster, now dormant but slowly waking up, a giant meteor destined to reduce whole civilization to ashes, hordes of others, be it drow, enemy kingdom, devil worshipers or other cultist, and so on, and so forth.

I don't want to discuss whether it's useful or not.

My questions are:

  • Do you know/play some settings void of such a threat?
  • Do your players/yourself enjoy them as much as ones with such a feature?
  • Did you develop some clever alternative to the Big Threat - a thing familiar to your world's inhabitants, that motivates some (PCs) to move their asses and travel across whole world and beyond? A word of explanation: The One Ring from tLoTR setting doesn't match the criteria, since it serves the purpose of getting rid of the Big Threat. The quest to seek Holy Grail would be the better example of what I have in mind. While it might be used as a morale boosting icon for any ruler or general, its purpose isn't to counter any specific Big Threat whatsoever.

First the obvious:
Almost every setting can have a Big Threat added or be played without that kind of meta-plot.

But that is not what you are asking for.

So, I started to see what I games I know that doesn't have one, and that made me wind up with another question:
How big do the threat have to be, in order to be The Big Bad?
How "ever present" does it have to be?
I may not dislike D&D any longer, but I still dislike the Chaos-Lawful/Evil-Good alignment system, as well as the level system.
;)
________________________________________

Link to my wip Ferals 0.8 unfinished but playable on pdf on MediaFire for free download here :
https://www.mediafire.com/?0bwq41g438u939q

Simlasa

  • Lemon Tart
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5828
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2016, 11:07:52 AM »
Post apocalyptic games often lack an overarching threat, seeing as the world has already been destroyed and the emphasis can be on rebuilding and exploration.
Our Gamma World games never had huge world-threatening threats... just local stuff, with a general goal of rebuilding civilization and gathering resources.
Earthdawn is post-apocalyptic fantasy but the big bads there, the 'Horrors' are on the wane and major terrestrial threat, the Therans, are just a murmur of distant wars unless you want to engage it head on.

Quote from: Catelf;898495
How big do the threat have to be, in order to be The Big Bad?
How "ever present" does it have to be?
Call of Cthulhu has big bads but there's no reason they have to be anything like an immediate threat. They provide an atmosphere of doom but not necessarily any more than knowing the sun will eventually die.
Most of the CoC games I've run, despite the megaplot of the Old Ones inevitable return, focused on low scale stuff... weird crimes committed by cultists, the occasional sorcerer or monster.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2016, 12:22:56 PM by Simlasa »

Bren

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7497
    • View Profile
    • http://honorandintrigue.blogspot.com/
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2016, 11:15:09 AM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898465
1. Do you know/play some settings void of such a threat?

Yes, frequently. Star Wars is the only notable exception and even in that campaign one of the main player groups were smugglers who were trying to make the vig and payments to their loan shark every month while hoping to find a "big score."  The captain was completely mercenary in her aims. A female Han Solo with a heart of lead.

Quote
2. Do your players/yourself enjoy them as much as ones with such a feature?

They seem to. Several seem to prefer a smaller scale of problems and threats.

Quote
3. Did you develop some clever alternative to the Big Threat - a thing familiar to your world's inhabitants, that motivates some (PCs) to move their asses and travel across whole world and beyond?

No.

  • Some campaigns are mission based where the PCs are people who go on missions that other people assign to them e.g. members of the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars or Star Fleet in Star Trek.

  • Some campaigns have a smaller focus e.g. one's extended family, or clan, possibly even a tribe. Events weren't about setting ending threats.

  • Some campaigns are open ended sandboxes and the PCs are the sort of greedy, selfish bastards that Gronan likes to run who provide their own motivations.

  • Or maybe they run nice guys who like to help people. In any world I run there is always some poor, oppressed bastard who needs the help of some altruistic do-gooder. Just like the real world.

  • Or the game might be Pendragon which comes with a whole family of motivations for adventure.[/COLOR]
Currently running: Boot Hill 2E      Currently playing:_D&D 5E and Call of Cthulhu
My Blog: For Honor...and Intrigue
I now have a gold medal from Ravenswing and Gronan now owes me 9 beers and I owe him 2 beers.
And this just in, jeff37923 has jumped on the beer wagon. He now owes me 1 beer.

AsenRG

  • Bloody Weselian Hippy
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5036
    • View Profile
    • http://storiescharactersandsystemsinrpgs.blogspot.com/
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2016, 11:27:50 AM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898465

My questions are:
Do you know/play some settings void of such a threat?

Yes to both, since I kinda like Tekumel;)!

Quote
Do your players/yourself enjoy them as much as ones with such a feature?

The proactive ones tend to like it more:p.

Quote
Did you develop some clever alternative to the Big Threat - a thing familiar to your world's inhabitants, that motivates some (PCs) to move their asses and travel across whole world and beyond?

You mean, apart from lust, greed, patriotism, glory-hounding, self-actualization, religion or the lack thereof and non-world-spanning security concerns:D?
What Do You Do In Tekumel? See examples!
"Life is not fair. If the campaign setting is somewhat like life then the setting also is sometimes not fair." - Bren

S'mon

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11514
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2016, 11:36:08 AM »
My 4 current campaigns:

4e Loudwater - classic Big Threat, as Orcus & Szass Tamm seek to conquer/destroy Faerun.
5e Wilderlands Ghinarian Hills - Empire of Neo-Nerath is a biggish threat, but limited in scope - you could always just leave the threatened area.
5e Shattered Star - has the Runelords of Thassilon on the horizon, though pretty abstract/remote currently.
Classic Karameikos - has the Master of the Desert Nomads.

So I don't have a campaign devoid of a Big Threat, but they're not all world-ending.
My 5e and Mini Six Primeval Thule games blog:
https://simonsprimevalthule.blogspot.com
My Forgotten Realms 4e & 5e games blog: https://frloudwater.blogspot.com

Omega

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • O
  • Posts: 14409
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2016, 11:57:05 AM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898465
  • Do you know/play some settings void of such a threat?
  • Do your players/yourself enjoy them as much as ones with such a feature?
  • Did you develop some clever alternative to the Big Threat - a thing familiar to your world's inhabitants, that motivates some (PCs) to move their asses and travel across whole world and beyond? A word of explanation: The One Ring from tLoTR setting doesn't match the criteria, since it serves the purpose of getting rid of the Big Threat. The quest to seek Holy Grail would be the better example of what I have in mind. While it might be used as a morale boosting icon for any ruler or general, its purpose isn't to counter any specific Big Threat whatsoever.
Thanks!

1a: Its not all that common except in modules. where it gets over-used A-LOT. Which is why some of us probably have a slight aversion to such.
Settings I know of without such threats. BX's Known World, O and AD&D's Greyhawk, 2e's Forgotten Realms up untill they totally fucked that up repeatedly. 1 & 2e Gamma World are another example. 3 & 4e not sure on. Alt GW went back to neutral and fuck if anyone can decipher what the hell d20 & 4e D&D GW had. Dark Sun probably counts too. When EVERYTHING wants to kill you, horribly, it is hard to have a big bad. ahem. Spelljammer was another. Thers alot of stuff going on. But the core setting was neutral. Modules and box settings though kept trying to one-up eachother for threat level. Shadowrun is another. Theres no overall threat. They did introduce a few later. But again the start off didnt.
Tekumel also comes to mind.

1b: As a DM I've run two world-ender modules with such a theme and were alot of fun. But as a DM if running my own stuff there is none. There are threats. But not world-enders. As a player I am more or less neutral on it. LEaning to a mild dislike due to over-use by various publishers. Especially when introduced to settings that were up till then neutral. It bugs me a little.

2: I prefer world-ender-less settings/plots as a player and a DM. There may certainly be big threats. But they arent going to end civilization or all life. Though I do occasionally enjoy villains that THINK this is what they are.

3: Yes! Natural disasters, or good old fashioned war. But natural disasters are my go-to for big threats. A volcano thats imminent to blow or lava flows, stopping a flood, famine, pestilence. Famine in Far-Go for GW was one of those where the PCs were sent off to find food. Or no overall threat at all. Just exploration or putting down whatever little incidents crop up.

JesterRaiin

  • An Outsider
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1331
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2016, 12:16:28 PM »
Quote from: David Johansen;898491
If I use a big threat I usually let my players be the ones who release it.  They're good at that.


...and there's absolutely no manipulation or concealment on your part? No "roll dice... hmmmm, 19,18,19,19... Nope, the sword looks perfectly harmless, I mean, all things considering. It just lies there, on the altar, glows with bright red runes and there's, like, an aura of total darkness surrounding it, but don't they all look like that?" :D

Quote from: Catelf;898495
So, I started to see what I games I know that doesn't have one, and that made me wind up with another question:
How big do the threat have to be, in order to be The Big Bad?
How "ever present" does it have to be?


Let's see... I'm thinking about something threatening whole world. It doesn't mean that everyone is aware of that fact ("Sra... Sarong... Sauron? Nope, first time I hear that name. Some exotic inn far away from the Hobbiton, I presume?"), but the threat is very real. It doesn't have to mean "total destruction" either. Enslavement, control, the need to leave the place and migrate elsewhere ("Interstellar" movie) are considered "the Big Bad" too.

Whether the cataclysm might be averted is irrelevant.

Quote from: Simlasa;898496
Post apocalyptic games often lack an overarching threat, seeing as the world has already been destroyed and the emphasis can be on rebuilding and exploration.


I can name a few post-apo movies or books/comic books where there's no "Big Threat" per se, still I don't recall many games featuring such a setting. Pretty much every one I remember follows the idea of civilization being threatened by "the Wasteland", being a mix of harsh environment and hostile forces (raiders, zombies, mutants, robots and what not).

Any specific title?

Quote from: Bren;898497
Yes, frequently.


Are you willing to name some? :)

Quote
They seem to. Several seem to prefer a smaller scale of problems and threats.


I'd even risk the statement, that "save the world" makes rather poor choice for early adventures, unless players (like those in your SW example) are oblivious to the Big Picture and don't realize initially they are slowly becoming part of massive story.

Quote
No.


Too bad, I counted on some interesting and unorthodox solutions.

I appreciate the examples, though.

Quote from: AsenRG;898498
Yes to both, since I kinda like Tekumel;)!


Kinda? ;)

Side note: Tekumel is mentioned pretty often here. Funny thing is, that I rarely hear about it elsewhere, and I move a lot.

Quote
The proactive ones tend to like it more:p.


Out of curiosity: does any of your gaming group spent considerably long time in any setting void of "The Big Threat" without succumbing to a boredom? I'm not suggesting its inevitable - I'm interested in other people's experience.

Quote
You mean, apart from lust, greed, patriotism, glory-hounding, self-actualization, religion or the lack thereof and non-world-spanning security concerns:D?


But uncle Asen, aside of the last one each of your examples make perfect motivation for the Big Bad Evil Guy or war, and they in turn might be/become the Big Threat himself. :D
"If it's not appearing, it's not a real message." ~ Brett

Simlasa

  • Lemon Tart
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5828
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2016, 12:19:07 PM »
Quote from: Catelf;898495
How big do the threat have to be, in order to be The Big Bad?
How "ever present" does it have to be?
Call of Cthulhu has big bads but there's no reason they have to be anything like an immediate threat. Most of the CoC games I've run, despite the megaplot of the Old Ones inevitable return, focused on low scale stuff... weird crimes committed by cultists, the occasional sorcerer or monster.

Simlasa

  • Lemon Tart
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5828
    • View Profile
"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2016, 12:36:21 PM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898505
I can name a few post-apo movies or books/comic books where there's no "Big Threat" per se, still I don't recall many games featuring such a setting. Pretty much every one I remember follows the idea of civilization being threatened by "the Wasteland", being a mix of harsh environment and hostile forces (raiders, zombies, mutants, robots and what not).
Now you're muddying your own waters.
The environment is always a threat if you get stuck out there with no resources. But most any PA setting I know has 'points of light'... even if they are rough and tumble places like Bartertown. Hostile forces are often just local threats... gangs, warlords. Nothing threatening the world that must be dealt with for the sake of humanity. Zombies are an ongoing apocalypse, like alien invaders or a robot plague, not 'post apocalypse' until those factors are under control to a great degree.

Are you asking for settings with no threats at all? Even Candyland has squares that will set you back.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2016, 12:41:04 PM by Simlasa »